The Triad’s highest and lowest restaurant sanitation ratings
As of 12:45 a.m. EDT on Saturday, Oct. 14, New China Buffet on 5723 University Parkway in Winston-Salem was listed in the Department of Public Health database as having had its last inspection on Sept. 14, at which time it received an 80.5. A re-inspection occurred on Oct. 11, upgrading it to 91, but the new grade did not post to the public database until after 2 a.m. on Oct. 14. As the article states, midnight on Oct. 13 was the deadline and date for posted inspections.
The text of the article was revised after the deadline to reflect the restaurant’s new rating. Unfortunately, the accompanying table was not and depicted the grades as shown on the public website at midnight on Oct. 13.
The restaurant’s sanitation history going back to 2012 can be viewed via this shortened URL:
The intention of this article is to inform our readers of the lowest and highest sanitation scores in the Triad. This article was not intended to endorse the restaurants with a high sanitation rating or discredit the restaurants that have a low sanitation rating.
My most terrifying Halloween was spent in the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill infirmary with a gruesome case of food poisoning. This happened after foolishly failing to notice the sanitation rating on the grease-splattered wall of a gyro joint on Franklin Street. Student Legal Services later assisted in the early stages of litigation, but over Thanksgiving break, the restaurant burned down and its owners moved out of state. Word on Franklin Street was that the grease that regularly splattered the establishment’s back wall had finally ignited it.
Since then, I’ve always looked for the Public Health Inspection rating, and so should you.
The score of 78 that the North Carolina Department of Public Health gave that Franklin Street grease palace, a number I can recall because it was also the grade on my Sociology final, would now be accompanied by a big bold “C,” the scarlet letter of sanitation ratings. Such letters did not become part of state-mandated restaurant grades until 1995, when the first such system was enacted by South Carolina, with North Carolina and Tennessee following suit. Under North Carolina law, any establishment that prepares and serves drink or food to the public for pay is subject to inspection by the Environmental Health Section within the Division of Public Health, which is part of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Every food service establishment in Guilford and Forsyth counties receives an unannounced, on-site inspection one to four times a year. The inspection ensures that the establishment is meeting food safety requirements. The inspector records any observed violations during the inspection. Each violation is associated with a range of points depending on the type and extent of the violation and the risk it poses to the public. At the end of the inspection, the points are added together for an inspection score. A numerical scoring system on a 100-point scale is used with points deducted for each violation. As one might expect, a score of 90-100 points is an “A,” 80-89 points a “B” and 70-79 points is a “C.” Anything below 70 points results in the immediate revocation of the establishment’s permit, and its operations must cease until all issues are corrected. Once an establishment is inspected and receives a grade, its permit is required to be posted in conspicuous view of all diners. With that in mind, here follows an examination of restaurant sanitation ratings in the databases maintained by the Guilford and Forsyth County Departments of Public Health. The Guilford County database includes 1,146 restaurants, 32 food stands and 63 food trucks, as well as sanitation ratings for a variety of establishments and facilities outside the scope of this article, including commercial lodgings, school cafeterias, and tattoo parlors. Similarly, the Forsyth database covers 779 restaurants, 246 food stands and 17 food trucks. This data can be accessed via the following URLs, reduced using Google’s URL Shortener.
The databases can only be sorted by letter grade, date, restaurant name, city name or zip code; the site doesn’t allow a viewer to sort, for instance, all the grades or any subset of them in descending order, with either the lowest or the highest first. This isn’t a problem when determining the lowest-rated restaurants, as only one Guilford County establishment and 11 Forsyth County establishments received a “C” in the last five years. Even all the “B” ratings over that period of time, 182 for Forsyth and 46 for Guilford, can be browsed in a couple of hours. Sorting the “A”s is more difficult, as 1,120 Guilford County restaurants received a rating between 90 and 100 on their most recent inspect, with the figure being 735 for Forsyth.
Therefore, while it was relatively simple to determine the lowest-rated restaurants, there was a lot more data to sort through for the highest-rated ones. Yes! Weekly apologizes for any restaurants that may have been in the highest percentile but were unintentionally left out here because their last inspection occurred before August. It should also be noted that the cut-off for this article was midnight on Oct. 13, and it does not reflect any grades posted to the website after that time, regardless of when the inspection occurred. The online version of this article will be updated to reflect any corrections received.
With that caveat in mind, here are the top 10 restaurants for Guilford County. The following three restaurants received “perfect scores” of 100 on their last inspection:
Bella Luna, 2205 Oak Ridge Rd., Oak Ridge.
Hungry Howie’s Pizza #625, 5710 Gate City Blvd., Greensboro.
Mythos Grill, 4900 West Market St., Greensboro.
It should be noted that Hungry Howie’s #625 has received 100 on five of its six inspections since September 2014. Mythos Grill has received three scores of 100, one of 99.5 and one of 99 since 2015. Bella Luna’s inspection of Sept. 25 was its first.
Six Guilford County restaurants received scores of 99.5, with all their most recent inspections occurring since July of this year.
Jamestown Park Grill, 7041 East Fork Rd., Jamestown.
Mikhael’s Café and Catering, 4214 Beechwood Dr., Greensboro.
New York China Restaurant, 7605-H, NC HWY 68, North Oak Ridge.
Penny’s Restaurant, 727 W. Main St., Jamestown.
Sidwill’s Café & Catering, 116 E. Main Street, Jamestown.
Subway #65376, 5635 Riverdale Rd., Jamestown.
The top 10 is rounded out by Cincy’s Downtown at 115 E. February 1 Place in Greensboro, which received a 98. Dozens of other Guilford County restaurants received an identical store, but Cincy’s was the most recent to do so. A special honorable mention might be made of Elizabeth’s Pizza at 1218 Bridford Parkway in Greensboro, which received a 97.5 on Aug. 15, but 100 on its previous six inspections.
Note that Greensboro took four of the top spots, Jamestown took four and Oak Ridge two, with High Point nowhere to be seen (it will be better represented in the bottom 10 rankings).
Forsyth County makes for an interesting comparison. Looking at the stats, one might be forgiven for thinking that the Forsyth County Department of Health employs much tougher graders, as only one restaurant received a perfect score. That was Billy Bob’s Silver Diner at 1650 Hanes Mall Boulevard in Winston-Salem.
No Forsyth restaurant received a 99.5 in the past few months (as opposed to the six in Guilford County), but the following five all received scores of 99:
Flour Box Tea Room and Café, 137 West St., Old Salem, Winston-Salem.
Frank’s Restaurant, 8191 Broad St., Rural Hall.
Honky Tonk Smokehouse, 145 Jonestown Rd., Winston-Salem.
Tanglewood Clubhouse Grill, 4061 Tanglewood Rd., Clemmons.
The following three restaurants all received 98.5 on their latest inspections. Note the presence of a Biscuitville location; that company has the highest overall ratings of any chain in the Triad aside from Starbuck’s.
Biscuitville #129, 6405 Sessions Court, Clemmons.
Ruby Tuesday #4947, 6412 Sessions Court, Clemmons.
The Tavern in Old Salem, 736 South Main Street, Winston-Salem.
The Greek Grill at 1520 Lewisville Clemmons Road in Clemmons rounds out this Top 10 with a score of 98. It was chosen over the other Forsyth County restaurants with that grade due to receiving it the most recently, when it was inspected on Oct. 10.
Now for the other end of the scale. Reflecting the apparent tendency of Guilford County restaurants to receive higher scores than Forsyth’s, Guilford’s bottom 10 actually includes eight restaurants with a grade of “A.”
Three received a score of 91. These were # 1 Chinese Restaurant at 1125 E. Lexington in High Point, Rome Italian Garden Market Pizza at 5211 W. Market in Greensboro and Kyoto Express at 3361 Battleground in Greensboro. Three other Greensboro restaurants received a rating of 90.5. Those were Holiday Inn Express Hotel Suites Breakfast at 3111 Cedar Park Road, Chopstix at 1320 Lees Chapel and New One Wok at 707 College Road.
The following two establishments received a grade of 90: Ichiban Grill & Supreme Buffet at 3020 W. Gate City Blvd. and The Worx at 108 Barnhardt St., both in Greensboro. It should be noted that a grade this low is anomalous for Ichiban, which has received an average grade of 96 over its five-year history and was given a 95 on June 21.
Only two establishments, one not actually a restaurant although the Public Health Department includes it in that category, received a “B” rating. Drury Inn & Suites at 3220 W. Gate City Blvd. in Greensboro received the higher of these two rankings, earning an 89 on Feb. 7. This rating was only for the food service afforded to its guests, and it more recently received a 96 in the Lodging category on Sept. 26.
The lowest-rated restaurant in Guilford County (and tied for lowest in this article), was China King Super Buffet at 1112 Eastchester in High Point. This establishment received an 80.5 on Aug. 21. It has received a “B” on every inspection this year, earning 86 on June 12 and 82.5 on May 4.
As the overall tendency may have suggested, Forsyth County lowest scores skewed lower than Guilford’s. Where Guilford had only two establishments with a “B” rating on their last inspections, Forsyth had five, all occurring in the last two months.
New China Buffet on 5723 University Parkway is highest of the bottom 10, having received a grade of 91 on Oct. 11. Before getting to those Forsyth County restaurants that received a grade lower than 90, there are the four with that number, the lowest “A” rating. One, Sagebrush Steakhouse #527 at 566 Arbor Hill Road, is in Kernersville, and three are in Winston-Salem. The Winston establishments are Simply Soul Restaurant at 4339 South Main Street, Jimmy the Greek at 2806 University Parkway, and China Express at 3055 Waughton Street.
The highest of Forsyth County’s “B” ratings is Twin Peaks at 1915 Hampton Inn Court in Winston, which received an 88 on Aug. 28. Two Winston-Salem pizza parlors got an 87, with Zito’s Pizzeria and Grill at 3030 Healy Drive receiving that grade on Oct. 9 and Pizza Hut # 2841 at 2721 Peters Creek Parkway receiving it on August 28. With its rating of 86 on Oct. 9, McDonald’s #7030 at 195 Akron Drive in Winston-Salem has the lowest grade of any corporate chain restaurant in the Triad and the second lowest for any Forsyth county restaurant (the Yelp reviews for that location are also extremely low, many citing its alleged lack of cleanliness).
From there to the bottom slot is a considerable drop. Number 1 Chinese Restaurant on 2820 University Parkway in Winston received an 81.5 on Oct. 2. A re-inspection occurred on Oct. 11, upgrading it to 90.1, but the new grade did not post to the public database until after 2 a.m. on Oct. 14. Their new rating was bumped up to 90.1.
For the lowest-rated establishments in either county, their current grades are bit anomalous. Number 1 Chinese Restaurant has also received two other “B” ratings in 2017 and has an average rating of 86.6 over the last four years. High Point’s New China Buffet, the lowest rated restaurant in either county at 80.5, has an average of 85.5 over its last 10 inspections.
Yet these are no more typical of the overall sanitation ratings for Chinese restaurants than the low ratings for the above Zito’s and Pizza Hut locations are of pizza chains. Most of the Triad’s Asian restaurants consistently score in the high 90s. Buffets, with their large size and sheer variety of food that must be maintained for hours at a time at mandated temperatures, do present special challenges, but many local establishments meet them. For instance, while it didn’t quite make the top 10, the popular Super China Buffet at 2103 Pyramids Village in Greensboro received a 96.5 on Aug. 10 and has consistently been rated in the high 90s, as have the Triad’s most popular Indian buffets. The actual rating is what diners should be wary of, not any particular type of restaurant.
Ian McDowell is the author of two published novels, numerous anthologized short stories, and a whole lot of nonfiction and journalism, some of which he’s proud of and none of which he’s ashamed of.